A Rainbow-colored Trip
にじいろトリップ 「Niji-iro Torippu」
Release Date: 2021
Duration: 39 mins.
Director: Shinji Imaoka
Writer: Shinji Imaoka (Script),
Starring: Yuune Sakurai, Yuri Ogino, Ryuju Kobayashi, Outa Saiuchi,
Premiering at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021, Shinji Imaoka’s short film A Rainbow-Coloured Trip feels like it is a response to his previous work, the downbeat and dour drama Reiko and the Dolphin, which premiered at the same festival a year earlier. While that film charted the dissolution of a marriage following the death of a child, A Rainbow-Coloured Trip takes the same story archetype but tells it from a child’s perspective and with upbeat musical sequences.
Haruka (Yuune Sakurai) is an 11-year-old girl who is experiencing the first blush of love with a boy in her class. Despite feeling a giddy sensation of joy over this, she finds herself dragged down by the fact that her parents Nobutaka (Ryujyu Kobayashi) and Kumiko (Yuri Ogino) are about to divorce. It is a situation she will be stuck with over a weekend.
As a family, they are taking one last holiday together in a cabin in a nature park at the foot of Mount Fuji but her parent’s constant bickering makes Haruka head deep into the forest that surrounds the campsite to escape them. Her destination is a special waterfall where she can pray to a dragon god for her family to start over again but can life really be so simple?
In such a story, the balance between Haruka’s childlike innocence and a growing awareness of the complicated world of adults forms the main content. Any expectations of a Parent Trap-like outcome are dangled in front of audiences thanks to the musical elements and Haruka’s positive attitude.
The musical moments may feel odd but add some buoyancy to the atmosphere as characters break into songs that have cheery melodies and sometimes off-pitch singing and physical pratfalls for comedic effect. They also add snappiness to the rhythm of the story as exposition and the internal feelings of character’s are belted out, thus reducing the need for reams of dialogue. While the musical elements are eye and ear-catching, it is the drama that has the most impact.
When it comes to the breakdown of the marriage, Imaoka creates an interesting dynamic where it is Kumiko who gets the “blame” and is pushing for change but he resists creating melodrama between the adults and, instead, focuses on showing the effect a divorce can have on a young mind just as that child steps into adolescence. This is done by showing how Haruka is modelling herself and her burgeoning romance on her mother’s behaviour. As such, her parent’s failed relationship acts as a bitter counterpoint to her romantic dreams and optimism.
The depiction of the conflict between the parents feels believable as they settle into an alternating rhythm of passive-aggressive arguing and false bonhomie for Haruka’s sake. However, a lingering camera on Haruka’s face and the musical sections where Haruka bares her emotions reveal a girl who is well aware of her parent’s faults.
Yuri Ogino, a familiar face from East of Jefferson and Human Comedy in Tokyo, gives a nuanced performance as we see a woman who clearly yearns for freedom and relishes her forward momentum upwards in her career and away from her husband, but she also displays melancholy in the moments that she grasps at trying to be a mother with Haruka and a tear will fall. In contrast, Ryuju Kobayashi has the sort of silent resentment and a stoicism that feels believable in a jilted man who has come to terms with a relationship ending. There are moments of wistful exchanges between parents as they lament that their girl is growing up fast – 11 does seem too young for romance! – but the film ends on a rather mature note of acceptance that people have to go their own way and fairy tale endings are for the movies.
In the central role, Yuune Sakurai handles the singing with aplomb as she dances and harmonises her way through heartache. Her dramatic acting is just as good as she maintains a note of optimism but also dives into sadness, perfectly captured with a shared scene with her mother as the two acknowledge that relationships can be born from passion and happiness but don’t always work out.
While A Rainbow-Coloured Trip is delightful in its musical sequences, it is most profound in its depiction of the dissolution of a family and the impact that it has on each member. For the parent’s it is the guilt towards the child while for Haruka it is the loss of innocence as she endures witnessing her parent’s relationship break down and the realisation that a bond of love is a fragile thing. Director Imaoka sensitively captures these aspects, particularly the child’s response. When tears are shed by the family it feels earned, but the film also ends on a note that life will continue for all, especially Haruka who can still dream about uncomplicated love for a little while more. The ending is a positive, even if it is tinged with sadness.